The findings of the Bouchard-Taylor commission make it all the more important for Ottawa to take concrete steps to reinforce the use of the French language in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said yesterday.
In an interview, Duceppe said he is generally satisfied with the report and the commission's decision to accept several of the Bloc's recommendations, including making French the common public language, affirming the equality of men and women and the necessity for those who represent the state not to wear religious symbols.
However, he said he was disappointed the report made no reference to the 1982 repatriation of the constitution and the "weakening" of Quebec's ability to manage its own affairs.
Duceppe said he would like to see the Quebec government strengthen the French Language Charter, Bill 101, and adopt the constitution being suggested by Action Démocratique.
As for the Bloc, Duceppe said it will push for the Conservative government to extend Bill 101 to Quebec workers in areas that fall under federal labour law, like transportation, banks and telecommunications.
Duceppe said the Bouchard-Taylor report also gives new impetus for the Bloc's campaign for Quebec to have its own telecommunications regulator and for Quebec to be exempt from the federal law on multiculturalism.
New Democrat Thomas Mulcair echoed Duceppe's call for the federal government to beef up the protections to ensure that francophones who work in areas under federal labour law have the right to work in French.
Mulcair said he was pleased to see that the report accepted the NDP's proposal to improve the recognition of foreign credentials for professionals educated in other countries.
"We're quite pleased to see that in there because it is something we recognize as being extremely important."
Mulcair said at least Quebec had the courage to tackle the topic head-on, he believes some Quebecers may feel their concerns have been ignored in the report.
Federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion said he had not yet read the report but agrees with its conclusion that there is no crisis surrounding reasonable accommodation in Quebec.
"I don't think that there is a crisis," he told a television reporter in Sherbrooke. "I think there are adjustments to make.
"For some people it can create a malaise, a worry, but I have complete confidence in our ability as a Quebec society to ensure diversity remains a strength."
As to the recommendation that the state be neutral when it comes to religion, Dion said it is up to the Quebec government to decide what to do.
"In our country, the government itself has no religion. But the government and all the public institutions are committed to protect the right to have a religion and to practice it everywhere in Canada. ... It is a principle in the Charter of Rights that the government, itself secular, must protect."
Alykhan Velshi, spokesperson for Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, said the Bouchard-Taylor commission was established by the Quebec government and it is Quebec that has to decide where to go from here.
"It is not for the federal government to dictate to Quebec the right balance between national identity and cultural pluralism."
THE COMMISSION BY THE NUMBERS
- The original budget: $5 million (only $3.7 million will have been spent when it concludes in June)
- 13 research projects conducted by specialists from different Quebec universities were commissioned
- 31 focus groups were organized with individuals from Montreal and the regions
- 59 meetings were held with experts and representatives of sociocultural organizations
- An advisory committee comprising 15 specialists from various disciplines was set up
- Hearings were held in 15 regions in addition to Montreal
- Over 900 briefs were submitted
- 241 participants testified
- 22 regional forums were held
- 4 province-wide forums were held
- The commission's website received over 400,000 visits
- Where hearings were held, 22 evening citizens' forums attracted a total of 3,423 participants. Each forum lasted nearly three hours and had on average 40 participants from all social backgrounds take the floor and express their opinions
Bloc pushes stronger Bill 101
Duceppe and Mulcair satisfied with report, Liberals and Tories say it's up to Quebec